Q and A: Will two sets of header information effect our ranking?

QuestionDear Kalena…

Our Web site uses a layered navigation scheme which pulls content (formatted as its own page) into a template which wraps the top, left and bottom navigation (also its own page) around the content page. This results is two sets of header tags when the page is loaded in a browser.

Will two sets of header information effect our ranking?

We have a script that pulls the title tag from the content page and displays it at the top of the two combined pages. I’m hoping to hide the second title by hiding it in design notes. If I have design notes in my HTML code, will search engines ignore it?

Thanks

Brad

Dear Brad

Years ago, having two sets of header tags in a document would cause considerable display issues for some browsers but as they’ve evolved (to accommodate for poor coding and situations like this), you most likely won’t have too many browser-related problems.

However, from an SEO point-of-view it would be best if you could avoid unnecessary header tags. The search bots navigate pages from top to bottom, so by default, it will use the header data from the first tag and technically should ignore the information contained in the second one. But having two such tags bloats the code (even if it’s commented-out) and creates unnecessary information that the search bots have to scan, even though it provides absolutely no value to the page.

If the pages being pulled into the template aren’t designed to be viewed or indexed without the layered navigation system you’re using – then really you shouldn’t even need to have heading tags on these docs? Or perhaps as another alternative, have an additional script that runs and only imports/displays all data below the tag.

Hope this helps

Peter Newsome
SiteMost SEO Brisbane

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Webstock 09 : Bruce Sterling – The Web is all Turtles and Duct Tape

Live blogging The Short and Glorious Life of Web 2.0 presentation at Webstock 09 by Zeitgeist Author and Wired Blogger, Bruce Sterling.

Bruce starts by saying, here in New Zealand, we have lost sight of Web 2.0. Mistakes have been made. You think it’s the world of tag clouds, drop shadows and fonts.

Web 1.0 was the Britannica online while Web 2.0 was Wikipedia. Web 1.0 was portals while Web 2.0 was search engines. The canonical definition of Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O’Reilly: “.. the network as platform spanning all connecting devices, apps that make the most of blah blah blah…..”

The definition is thesis-long and reads like a Chinese takeout menu says Bruce. He then showed a slide of the visual flow chart of the defintion (see below):

Web 2.0 looks like a social network. Add some scenery and pictures to this Web 2.0 diagram and it becomes a Webstock Conference (at this point there is some sniggering in the audience).

You can’t break it down and analyze it. What’s exciting about this 5 year old flow chart is the pieces that are utter violations of previous common sense e.g. the web as platform. Native web logic is a new turtle, sitting on another, older turtle, sitting on another older still turtle. Just like platforms sitting on clouds. (This imagery has me grinning because I actually have a ceramic representation of the turtles on turtles analogy on my bookshelf).

AJAX is an acronym. How the hell can you make an acronym of an acronym? (more sniggering). Everybody knows that Web 2.0 with it’s JavaScript binding everything is made out of AJAX. After all Sun built Javascript. Javascript is the duct tape of Web 2.0 – it’s the ultimate material that will bind anything. It’s the glue of mashups.

Bob Metcalf, the inventor of ethernet had to eat his words claiming that the Internet would fall over. We’ve used JavaScript to duct tape the turtles all the way down. What’s with this blog business? Most of the things we call blogs today have zero to do with weblogs. True Weblogs are basically records of web surfing. Bruce’s own *blog* is consumed with link rot. He blogged stuff that is now in mystical 404 Land. (At this point the sniggering in the audience has turned to a little bristling and some vexed looks. Tweets fly about the room with the same theme – is Bruce Sterling giving us geeks a public spanking for worshipping Web 2.0?)

The phrase Web Platform is weird. Up there with *wireless cable* and *business revolution*. What about *dynamic content* – content is static for Pete’s sake. It is not contained.  And don’t forget *collective intelligence*. Google apparently has it and therefore it matters. Businessmen and revolutionaries alike use Google.  Bruce sees Larry and Sergey as the coolest Stanford grads ever, with their duct-tape ridden offices (more laughter).

Geek thought crime is the assumption about what constitutes *collective intelligence*. This attitude makes you look delusionary. He’d like to see a better definition such as: *semi autonomous data propagation*. I paid attention to Web 2.0 because I thought it was important. I supported Tim’s solar system invention and thought Web 2.0 people were a nifty crowd. The mainframe crowd were smarter than Web 2.0 people – the super selective technical elite. Problem was that all sense of fun had been boiled out of them.

The telephone system was the biggest machine in human history, but the users couldn’t access the cables or the pipeline. Unlike now = where everyone gets their hands on the components. But I’m not nostalgic for the old days, after all nostalgia is not what it used to be.  Look at Microsoft: the place where innovations go to die (loud guffaws, including one from me and we all rush to tweet that little gem).

Next for the web is a spiderweb in a storm. Some turtles get knocked out. The Fail Whale fails. Inherent contradictions of the web get revealed. Prediction: the web stops being the fluffy meringue dressing of business. What kind of a world do we live in when pirates in Somalia can make cell phone sonar calls via super tankers? We’ve got a web balanced on top of a collapsed economy.

Next is a transition web. Half the world’s population is on the web and the rest are joining. We need to know how to make the transition. During Web 2.0, we sold ourselves to Yahoo. In the transition web, we have no safety net. We’re all in the same boat. I’m bored of the deceipt, disgusted with cynical spin etc. etc. Let’s get on with real lives. (Bruce’s rant continues, but at this point I am seriously rapt and stop typing to be able to pay more attention).

To experience the full spanking by Bruce, see his own transcript of the presentation.

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Q and A: How involved should the client be with optimized home page copy?

QuestionDear Kalena

To what level would you typically involve a client in the production of the copy for the home page when you are optimizing their site?

I assume they would at least typically have review authority to approve what could be considered a first impression of their business? I’m curious how any past experiences you’ve had would have panned out.

Thanks

Dan

————————————————————–

Dear Dan

I typically ask the client to provide several pages of copy – either that which is already used online or perhaps in offline brochures etc. and then I rework that copy into several logical web pages.

Copy for the home page starts with the most important target keywords and expands from there, using the most appropriate parts of the copy that was provided by the client. Then I usually have a professional copywriter re-write the copy, integrating the target keywords seamlessly, while implementing call-to-actions and guiding the site visitors to the goal the client wants them to achieve (e.g. sign up, purchase, bookmark etc).

Sometimes I hit a brick wall with the marketing staff of larger clients or sometimes with their advertising agencies during the copywriting stage, but once they’re educated about the process and the end-goal, they generally allow me to have final say over the copy content.

You have to find a happy medium between searchability and convincing copy, but you also have to satisfy a range of stakeholders. It’s always a balancing act! No matter what, don’t be tempted to hijack the project. Make sure your client feels an integral part of the journey.

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Webstock 09 : Russ Weakley

Live blogging Open Web, Open Data, Open Panic? presentation at Webstock 09 by Author of “Teach Yourself CSS in 10 Minutes”, Russ Weakley.

Russ works at the Australian Museum. He had an idea for the museum web site about four years ago and it has taken this long to get to the pre-launch stage.

The public services world is about analysing, justifying and strategizing. The commercial sector is fast but the public service process is incredibly slow. This has had one unexpected benefit: Having to defnd every aspect has meant that we had to carefully think about many issues before launch.

The museum’s site was launched in 1994. It grew enormously and now has 43,000 pages plus 16 sites. Sounds good? Nope, trouble in paradise. It’s hard to maintain, users can’t find content, so there’s lost relevance. The site provided a one way contact stream but this is no longer relevant in a Web 2.0 world.

Four years ago we went to management with an idea: To build a rich, interactive web site concentrating on 4 objectives:

1) Communication. Interaction, not static. Allow users to communicate with museum and each other.

2) Allow users to share their own content

3) Provide new and easier navigation pathways

4) Allow all staff to publish easily

Management reaction? Initial shock! Than 1 year of silecne, 1 year of discussion, 1 year of planning, 1 year to build.

The overall concept:

– site has 3 levels, categories, sections and assets

– every piece of content will be an asset, no more web pages

– there will be a range of different types of assets

– wanted assets and sections to exist in multiple locations

Traditional model of site design doesn’t work because things are boxed together in a static location. We wanted it to have a dynamic, multiplicet model.

– every asset will have five different navigation methods. New asset pages show “other sections”,

– in new model, users can comment on any asset

– users and staff can add tags any asset

– author and user tags will provide new methods of navigation and richer search

– allow users to collect favourites and sets and share them with others

– upload their own images, movies, audios, comments, stories

– allow people to apply for expert status

– Wanted the system to be seamless. Allow users to move seamlessly through any type of content

What about staff? Every staff member will become an author

– allow staff to publish assets directly (after training). Initial management concern but now overcome with approvals in place.

– allow staff to own their assets

– allow users to create their own focused, passionate and personal blogs

– allow microblog to create instant news

Russ talks about how his bosses’ first day at the museum involved taking a chain saw to a dead whale in the museum carpark. Also mentions the discovery of Mr Blobby in the deep sea off New Zealand. This type of stuff makes priceless social media juice. Why waste it? Let’s give staff the ability to share such stories with the public.

– the system will allow authors to publish all content via one simple system

Questions asked by management about the new system:

1) When we go live, can we all sit back and relax? (no, we will need to work very hard to build the site and grow communities)

2) Will we moderate comments and tags? (no, we will use a simple login and allow all comments, tags, uploads)

3) Will a forced login alienate some users? (Yes, however we will review process after a 6 month process)

4) What if the information in comments is wrong? (Deal with it. Let the comment trail educate. Mistakes benefit everyone). Therefore clearly identified author comments are important.  Allow the community to self-moderate.

5) What about tags that are irrelevant? (Misspellings are useful because it allows more people to find information, no matter if they can spell or not. Long-tail keywords add to searchability of site. Just because they’re not relevant to you, doesn’t mean they’re not relevant to someone else.

6) Who is going to take responsibility for the comments? (Authors are responsible for comments associated with blogs.)

7) What if we are inundated with comments? (Nah, won’t happen)

8 ) Should we allow staff to publish? (Yes)

9) Should we have a single voice? (What? No answer to this. Can’t provide a single voice. Have different voices for each different asset)

10) How will we encourage tags and comments? (answer comments, encourage commenting, reward good behaviour, promote outside the site, eventually – let it go)

The new site strategy for the Australian Museum has been a long, painful journey. Despite the frustration, it’s also been a lot of fun.

Enjoy your own journey!

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Webstock 09 : Joshua Porter

Live blogging Designing Sign Up Screens and Flows presentation at Webstock 09 by Author of “Designing for the Social Web” Joshua Porter.

Josh got started in this biz because every client he ever had came to him with problems relating to web site sign ups.

Joshua wrote a book called The Usage Lifecycle. First up: Sign up is hard. If you have 8% of first time visitors signing up for a *free* account, you’re doing well.

When we think about the hurdle of sign up, we generally think about the friction of interface. So how do you remove friction? The Tumblr sign up is a great example of this. The URL box shows you what your URL will be. No need to understand sub-domains or anything else. The action button says “sign up and start posting” – it’s clear what will happen when you sign up.

We’re starting to see cool ways to make forms easier to use. Things like:

– Password strength

– Check username availability

– Inline help

– refilling fields upon error

– sending username in confirmation email

– Show/hide password

Joshua is currently working on a Facebook app. Facebook applications are great to work on because of all the different metrics. He’s been trying to improve the ease of use of typical Facebook forms:

Original Flow looks like:

1) Confirm personal info

2) Add your friends

3) Invite others

4) Getting started

Original Conversion Funnel:

Of the 100% of people who started the sign up process using the original flow, only 14% made it to the getting started screen. So at every level of the app sign up, we lost users.

What would happen if we took down some of the steps? He started by removing steps 1 and 3. The new flow was:

2) Add your friends

4) Getting started

The new conversion funnel resulted in 86% of users making it to the *getting started* screen.  Always ask clients why they want their user sign up forms changed. Focus tends to be on the form. But the form is not the problem of sign up. There’s a lot of good info on the web about form design. That’s not the issue. The issue is motivation.

“If ease of use were the only requirement, we would all be riding tricycles” – Douglas Engelbart

You need to change people’s minds about your software. Sign up is in the mind, not the web. People will find a way to sign up if they are motivated enough.

What are we asking?

1) A change in behaviour – old habits die hard

2) Give up accepted shared practices

3) Jump into the unknown

4) Shift from potential to kinectic energy – psychology behind wanting to change

The Psychology of Sign up = 9 x Effect by John T. Gourville. People tend to overvalue the software they currently use by about a factor of 3. Software makers tend to overvalue the software they offer by about a factor of 3. This creates the 9 x Effect. That’s why entrepreneurs tend to think they’re going to set the world on fire.

What we imagine people are thinking: confident, decisive, passionate

What they’re actually thinking: unsure, scared, non-commital

The Preconditions of Sign up:

– product research

– considering an alternative

– learning about the product

– comparison with other options

– reconnaissance

The form goes where the moment of readiness to sign up comes along. Therefore, pre-conditions are very important.

Design for 3 distinct visitor types:

1) I know I want to sign up

2) I want to make sure this is for me

3) I’m skeptical

Ways to tackle sign up:

1) Immediate Engagement

Geni’s family tree image where user can picture their *place* in the tree. NetVibes sign up reminds people it’s free, provides unobtrusive help comment window. Most importantly, you are allowed to create a personalized page via various fields etc BUT you have to sign up in order to be able to save that page. Slide widget that is on many social media sites uses similar thing. If you click on other people’s slide-shows, you can add and customize a photo BEFORE you sign up. Tripit use a helpful signup graphic and allows you to send travel data such as flight confirmations etc and then Tripit creates the account for you based on your return address. You’ve never even filled out a form, just sent an email. Posterous also has an email generated sign-up process and has “sign up” crossed through to remind people how easy it is

2) Write to Reduce Commitment

Copywriting is the easiest, fastest way to improve your sign-up process.

Highrise did A/B testing using Google Web Site Optimizer. They tested copy at top of sign-up form. Most conversions resulted from:

“30 day Free Trial on All Accounts. Sign-up takes less thann 60 seconds. Pick a plan to get started”.

Another example was PearBudget which started as an Excel spreadsheet and was converted to a web app. It allows you to create an online budget. The sign up is simply a pop up field “Save Your Budget” with an email and password field.

3) Levels of Description

First level is your elevator pitch – one line description of service, logo, screenshot

Second level includes more detail – features, benefits, how to join

Third is In-depth level – more complicated, details, links to deeper levels of information

The NetFlix sign up is a great example of the 3 levels in action. They also add their phone number for persons still needing help during the sign up process.

Bill My Clients recently changed their sign up which was not successful. Freshbooks has a great user interface (yay team!).

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